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Cañada Students to Present Research on Nano Electronics at National Conference


Three engineering students studied the performance degradation of integrated circuits due to aging transistors


Three Cañada College engineering students will present original research on nano-scale circuits at the Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Education Conference to be held March 4-5 in Santa Clara.

From left: Jesus Garcia, Hector Prado-Guerrero, and former students John Paulino and Joshua Lohse

Their paper is titled, “Engaging Undergraduate Students in Nano-Scale Circuit Research Using Summer Internship.” Students Jesus Garcia, Hector Prado-Guerrero and Joshua Lohse, who has subsequently transferred to UC Santa Cruz, all participated in a 10-week summer research internship through the NASA Curriculum Improvement and PartnershipAwards (CIPAIR) Program. They were joined by former Cañada College student John Paulino, who is now studying engineering at UC Berkeley. The paper describes the results of their work on the analysis of performance degradation of integrated circuits due to transistor aging effects in nano-scale.

Nanoelectronics are commonly used computers, mobile phones, sensors, and electric cars. In nanoelectronics, miniaturized electronic circuits are integrated on semiconductor chips where the basic element is the transistor.

Prado-Guerrero, who attended Sequoia High School in Redwood City before transferring to the Cañada Middle College to simultaneously earn his high school degree while taking college courses, said the internship taught him that most transistors can last 8 to 10 years before failing, long past the time consumers routinely upgrade their devices.

“The internship helped me gain real-world experience in the field of engineering research,” he said.

The three students studied under San Francisco State University Professor Hamid Mahmoodi. In Mahmoodi’s lab, they studied the phenomenon called Soft Oxide Breakdown (SBD) in the performance of integrated circuits.

“During our research, we investigated if the SBD could be prevented which means that integrated circuits would last longer,” said Garcia. “In other words, any device that contains integrated circuits could last for a longer period saving the consumer money.”

Lohse, who attended Carlmont High School before transferring to the Cañada Middle College program, said they used a probe station to test real chips through high or low temperatures to simulate years of use within a matter of hours. “We don’t want to wait five years for our results,” said Lohse, who is now studying at the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz.

If the research is to continue, Lohse said, the practical application would be the creation of a “silicon odometer.” He said it would be similar to a car’s odometer, measuring the wear on the chip and alerting users before the chip fails.

Garcia said the research experience was invaluable. “I learned how to conduct research, developed work-group skills, and learned how important these two skills are to successful engineers.”

Prado-Guerrero said he learned not only how engineering research is conducted, but how it is presented. “It is almost always more important to be able to present your findings, rather than just performing studies and research.”

While Lohse has already transferred to continue his studies, Garcia and Prado-Guerrero will soon be doing the same. Garcia said he would like to study at UC Berkeley or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and major in mechanical engineering. Prado-Guerrero wants to study computer engineering at UC Davis or Cal Poly.

“I feel coming to Cañada was one of the best choices I’ve ever made,” Prado-Guerrero said. “Working with (Professor of Mathematics and Engineering) Dr. Amelito Enriquez and Cathy Lipe (Director of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Center), the opportunities here are endless.”

Garcia agreed. “Coming to Cañada has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Cañada has an excellent engineering program and faculty.”

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